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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Plants in prairie communities

Plants in prairie communities

Roy Robison, Donald B. White, and Mary H. Meyer

Introduction

This bulletin describes three typical prairie communities: wet, mesic, and dry, and the plants found in these communities. Characteristics of each community are provided along with typical plants found in each site. This information should be useful to professional designers, teachers, landscape architects as well as amateur gardeners who have an interest in native plants and their landscape use.

Although the extensive table "Characteristics of Prairie Plants" lists 158 grasses and forbs, it is not offered as a comprehensive or exhaustive compilation of all native plants found in the area. However, an effort has been made to cover the more significant species occurring across the North Central region of the United States.

People are not always aware of protected and/or rare species. Each state has its own regulations as well as lists of threatened and endangered plants. Some states may require licensing or registration with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or other agency for collection and/or propagation of native plants. The by-word of all who are interested in native plants should be "Check before you collect." Check with your local county extension educator, the DNR, the Department of Agriculture, private landowners or the appropriate state agency if public lands are involved. In all cases, respect for the environment and other people's property is important.

Planting and maintenance of a prairie is beyond the scope of this publication. Consult the reference list for further information, and for references on botanical names and native plant organizations and horticultural societies.

Prairies in the United States

Prior to European settlement, vast grasslands or prairies existed throughout the central United States (Map 1). Today, very little of the original prairie exists due to commercial agriculture, development of communities, towns, roads, etc. Some estimates are that the shortgrass prairie and the mixed-grass prairie cover about 1/5 and 1/4, respectively, of the areas they once did. Of the tallgrass prairie, only about 1% remains in the United States today. These three grassland communities are based on rainfall. The higher annual precipitation in the east resulted in the tallgrass prairie and the decreased moisture westward resulted in shortgrass.

Within the major types of prairies (short, mixed, and tallgrass) exist communities of plants that thrive on specific sites. Three of the most common sites-wet, mesic, and dry-are discussed in this bulletin. Species composition of these three habitats changes as one goes from east (tallgrass) to west (shortgrass). A wet habitat in the tallgrass prairie is floristically quite different from a wet habitat in the shortgrass prairie. This publication generally applies to the tallgrass and mixed-grass regions. Many plants are quite restricted in their habitat preferences and may be limited to one habitat. for example, Aster simplex, panicled aster, prefers only wet sites, while other species, like Schizachyrium scoparium, little bluestem, and Oenothera pilosella, prairie sundrops, are more tolerant and may occur in all three communities.

Major grassland types of the U.S. and adjacent Canada and Mexico

Plants of wet prairies

The wet prairie plant community develops wherever the water table is high. Areas that are flooded or saturated by groundwater for more than a few days during a normal year are typical of wet prairies. Here the soil is waterlogged within the plant root zone for extended periods of time during the growing season. Local wet prairies develop in depressions where runoff accumulates or where the water table is close to the surface. The soil of wet prairie consists of silt and clay loam with high organic matter and nutrients. Wet prairie soils are poorly drained and are typically dominated by grasses with sedges an important component of the community. Forbs or wildflowers are abundant but usually fewer forb species occur in wet prairies than in mesic prairies. Plants found growing in this environment include:

Wild Garlic Allium canadense
Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardi
Canada Mayflower Anemone canadensis
Indian Hemp Apocynum cannabinum
Swamp Milkweed Asclepias incarnata
Common Milkweed A. syriaca
New England Aster A. novae-angliae
Crooked-stemmed Aster A. prenanthoides
Purple-stemmed Aster A. puniceus
Panicled Aster A. simplex
Flat-topped Aster A. umbellatus
Blue joint Grass Calamagrostis canadensis
Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris
Bicknell's Sedge Carex bicknellii
Wooly Sedge C. lanuginosa
White Turtle head Chelone glabra
Water Hemlock Cicuta maculata
False Toad flax Comandra richardsiana
Small White Lady's Slipper Cypripedium candidum
Showy Tick-trefoil Desmodium canadense
Midland Shooting star Dodecatheon meadia
Common Horsetail Equisetum arvense
Joe-Pye Weed Eupatorium maculatum
Boneset E. perfoliatum
White Camas Figadenus elegans
Queen of the Prairie Filipendula rubra
Wild Strawberry Fragaria virginiana
Northern Bedstraw Galium boreale
Bottle Gentian Gentiana andrewsii
Sneezeweed Helenium autumnale
Sawtooth Sunflower Helianthus grosseserratus
Sweet Grass Hierchloe odorata
Yellow Stargrass Hypoxis hirsuta
Blue flag Iris Iris versicolor
Wild Blue flag Iris I.virginica var. shrevei
Path Rush Juncus tenuis
Showy Vetchling Lathyrus venosus
Prairie Blazing star Liatris pycnostachya

Marsh Blazing star L. spicata
Michigan Lily Lilium michiganense
Wood Lily L. philadelphicum
Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis
Great Blue Lobelia L. siphilitica
Pale Spiked Lobelia L. spicata
Prairie Loose strife Lysimachia quadriflora
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Mat Muhlygrass Muhlenbergia richardonis
Prairie Sundrops Oenothera pilosella
Primrose O. rhomiboides
Cowbane Oxypolis rigidior
Switch grass Panicum virgatum
Marsh Betony Pedicularis lanceolata
Prairie Phlox Phlox pilosa
False Dragonhead Physostegia virginiana
Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum virginianum
Bristly Buttercup Ranunculus pensylvanicus
Gray headed Coneflower Ratibida pinnata
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
Sweet Coneflower R. subtomentosa
Swamp Saxifrage Saxifraga pensylvanica
Great Bulrush Scirpus validus
Prairie Dock Silphium terebinthinaceum
Riddell's Goldenrod Solidago riddellii
Prairie Cord Grass Spartina pectinata
Nodding Lady Tresses Spiranthes cernua
Meadow Sweet Spirea alba
Steeple Bush S. tomentosa
Tall Meadow Rue Thalictrum dasycarpum
Prairie Spiderwort Tradescantia bracteata
Ohio Spiderwort T. ohiensis
Blue Vervain Verbena hastata
Ironweed Vernonia fasciculata
Culver's Root Veronicastrum virginicum
Blue Marsh Violet Viola nephrophylla
Heart leaved Golden Alexander Zizia aptera
Golden Alexander Z. aurea

 

Plants of dry prairies

Purple Prairie Clover Dalea purpureum

big-bluestem

Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardi

Many dry prairies in the eastern grasslands are often found on steep hillsides or rocky areas that are not economically feasible to develop. Moving westward, dry prairies are more common in general due to the lower rainfall, between 10 and 20 inches per year. These dry prairie communities typically have a shallow soil profile, with a thin layer of organic matter and sandy, well-drained soil with low water-holding capacity. In western areas of the shortgrass prairie, evapotranspiration exceeds precipitation and can cause salts to accumulate in a hard layer three to six feet below the surface. This hardpan of limestone-like calcium carbonate causes the soil to be more alkaline and may be a distinguishing characteristic of the dry prairie community in the shortgrass prairie. This condition is rarely found in the tallgrass prairie, even in dry sites because the rainfall is adequate. Species composition varies in the dry prairie, depending on the soil, geography, topography, and climate. Typical plants found growing in the dry prairie community are:

Western Wheat Grass Agropyron smithii
Praire Onion Allium stellatum
Lead plant Amorpha canescens
Big Bluestern Andropogon gerardi
Caroliana Anemone Anemone caroliniana
Thimble Flower A. cylindrica
Pussy toes Antennaria neglecta
Lyre-leaved Rockcress Arabis lyrata
Beach Wormwood Artemisia caudata
Prairie Sage A. ludoviciana
Blunt-leaved Milkweed Asclepias amplexicaulis
Green Milkweed A. hirtella
Oval-leaved Milkweed A. ovalifolia
Butterly Flower A. tuberosa
Whorled Milkweed A. verticillata
Short-green Milkweed A. viridiflora
Heath Aster Aster ericoides
Smooth Aster A. laevis
Aromatic Aster A. oblongifolius
Sky Blue Aster A. oolentangiensis
      syn. [Aster azureus]
Silky Aster A. sericeus
Ground Plum Astragalus crassicarpus
Downy Wood Mint Blephilia ciliata
Sideoats Grama Bouteloua curtipendula
Blue Grama B. gracilis
Hairy Grama B. hirsuta
Buffalo Grass Buchloe dactyloides
Sand Reed Grass Calamovilfa longifolia
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
Pennsylvania Sedge Carex pensylvanica
Yellow Paint Brush Castilleja sessiliflora
Partridge Pea Chamaecrista fasciculata
Coreopsis Coreopsis palmata
White Praire Clover Dalea candidum
      syn. [Petalostemum candidum]
Purple Prairie Clover D. purpereum
      syn. [Petalostemum purpureum]
Silky Prairie Clover D. villosum
      syn. [Petalostemum villosum]
Prairie Larkspur Delphinium virescens
Illinois Tick-trefoil Desmodium illinoense
Pale Purple Coneflower Echinacea angustifolia
Canada Wildrye Elymus canadensis
Purple Love Grass Eragrostis spectabilis
Rattlesnake Master Eryngium yuccifolium
Flowering Spurge Euphorbia corollata
Downy Gentian Gentiana puberula
Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum
Mock Pennyroyal Hedeoma hispida
Longleaf Bluet Hedyotis longifolia
      syn. [Houstonia longifolia]
Showy Sunflower Helianthus laetiflorus
Downy Sunflower H. mollis
Oxeye Heliopsis helianthoides

Golden Aster Heterothera villosa
      syn. [Chrysopsis villosa]
Alumroot Heuchera richardsonii
Hairy Hawkweed Hieracium longipilum
False Heather Hudsonia tomentosa
Path Rush Juncus tenuis
Junegrass Koeleria macrantha
      syn. [Koeleria cristata]
False Boneset Kuhnia eupatoricoides
Rough Blazing star Liatris aspera
Cylindric Blazing star L. cylindrica
Dotted Blazing star L. punctata
Hoary Puccoon Lithospermum canescens
Caroliana Puccoon L. caroliana
Pale Spiked Lobelia Lobelia spicata
Wild Lupine Lupinus perennis
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Dotted Mint M. punctata
Muhly Grass Muhlunbergia sp.
Primrose Oenothera rhomiboides
Prairie Primrose O. rhomiboides
Brittle Prickly Pear Opuntia fragilis
Prickly Pear O. humifusa
Long stalked Panic Grass Panicum perlongum
White Penstemon Penstemon albidus
Smooth Penstemon P. digitalis
Slender Penstemon P. gracilis
Showy Penstemon P. grandiflorus
Pale Penstemon P. pallidus
Seneca Snakeroot Polygala senega
Prairie Cinquefoil Potentilla arguta
Scurf Pea P. tenuiflora
Pasque Flower Pulsatilla patens
      syn. [Anemone patens]
Prairie Buttercup Ranunculus rhomboideus
Upright Coneflower Ratibida columnifera
Wild Petunia Ruellia humilis
Little Bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium
      syn. [Andropogon scoparius]
Small Skullcap Scutellaria parvula
Common Blue-eyed Grass Sisyrinchium albidum
Blue-eyed Grass S. campestre
Gray Goldenrod Solidago nemoralis
White Upland Aster S. ptarmicoides
      syn. [Aster ptarmicoides]
Rigid Goldenrod S. rigida
Rough Dropseed Sporobolus asper
Prairie Dropseed S. heterolepis
Porcupine Grass Stipa spartea
Prairie Spiderwort Tradescantia ohiensis
Hoary Vervain Verbena stricta
American Vetch Vicia americana
Bird's Foot Violet Viola pedata
Arrow-leaved Violet V. sagittata

 

Plants of mesic prairies

indian-grass

Indian Grass Sorghastrum nutans

pasque-flower

Pasque Flower Pulsatilla patens

The mesic (from the Greek meso or middle, meaning neither wet nor dry) prairie community occurs in fairly level outwash deposits, gently rolling hills, or ground moraine. In some areas loess deposits (the fine wind-deposited material) overlie glacial till. Mesic prairies have lighter soil, receive or retain less water, and have more surface drainage than wet prairies. Most are found on loam and sandy loam soils. Rainwater soaks in but doesn't collect from the surrounding area. Mesic prairies may closely resemble dry communities, but grasses grow more vigorously and there are more flower species. These are ideal growing conditions for native legumes, which enrich the soil with nitrogen for other prairie species. Disturbance by fire, mowing, or grazing is necessary to prevent invasion by brush and trees. Common plants in this type of community include:

 

Fragrant Hyssop Agastache foeniculum
Prairie Dandelion Agoseris glauca
Prairie Onion Allium stellatum
Nodding Onion A. cernuum
Lead plant Amorpha canescens
Big Bluestem Andropogon gerardi
Canada Mayflower Anemone canadensis
Thimble Flower A. cylindrica
Pussy toes Antennaria neglecta
Spreading Dog bane Apocynum androsaemifolium
Wild Columbine Aquilegia canadensis
Sullivant's Milkweed Asclepias sullivantii
Common Milkweed A. syriaca
Butterfly Flower A. tuberosa
Heath Aster Aster ericoides
Smooth Aster A. laevis
New England Aster A. novae-angliae
Sky Blue Aster A. oolentangiensis
      syn [Aster azureus]
Crooked-stemmed Aster A. prenanthoides
Canadian Milk Vetch Astragalus canadensis
White Wild Indigo Baptisia alba
Wild Blue Indigo B. australis
      syn [Baptisia leucantha]
Prairie Wild Indigo B. bracteata
      syn [Baptisia leucophaea]
Kalm's Brome Bromus kalmii
Poppy Mallow Callirhoe triangulata
Harebell Campanula rotundifolia
Bicknell's Sedge Carex bicknellii
Mead's Sedge C. meadii
Wild Senna C. hebecarpa
Indian Paint Brush Castilleja coccinea
New Jersey Tea Ceanothus americanus
Pasture Thistle Cirsium discolor
Hill's Thistle C. hillii
False Toad flax Comandra palmata
Coreopsis Coreopsis palmata
White Prairie Clover Dalea candidum
      syn. [Petalostemum candidum]
Purple Prairie Clover D. purpureum
      syn. [Petalostemum purpureum]
Showy Tick-trefoil Desmodium canadense
Illinois Tick-trefoil D. illinoense
Midland Shooting star Dodecatheon meadia
Pale Purple Coneflower Echinacea angustifolia
Purple Coneflower E. purpurea
Canada Wildrye Elymus canadensis
Fire Weed Epilobium angustifolium
Rattlesnake Master Eryngium yuccifolium
Flowering Spurge Euphorbia corollata
White Camas Figadenus elegans
Wild Strawberry Fragaria virginiana
Northern Bedstraw Galium boreale
Yellow Gentian Gentiana alba
      syn [Gentiana flavida]
Bottle Gentian G. andrewsii
Downy Gentian G. puberula
Stiff Gentian Gentianella quinquefolia
      syn [Gentiana quinquefolia]
Fringed Gentian Gentianopsis crinata
      syn [Gentiana crinata]
Prairie Smoke Geum triflorum
Wild Licorice Glycyrrhiza lepidota
Longleaf Bluet Hedyotis longifolia
      syn [Houstonia longifolia]
Sawtooth Sunflower Helianthus grosseserratus

Showy Sunflower H. laetiflorus
Maximilian Sunflower H. maximiliani
Downy Sunflower H. mollis
Western Sunflower H. occidentalis
Oxeye Heliopsis helianthoides
Golden Aster Heterothera villosa
Alumroot Heuchera richardsonii
Canada Hawkweed Hieracium canadense
Showy Vetchling Lathyrus venosus
Roundheaded Bush clover Lespedeza capitata
Rough Blazing star Liatris aspera
Meadow Blazing star L. ligulistylis
Michigan Lily Lilium michiganense
Wood Lily L. philadelphicum
Hoary Puccoon Lithospermum canescens
Caroliana Puccoon L. caroliana
Great Blue Lobelia Lobelia siphilitica
Pale Spiked Lobelia L. spicata
Wild Bergamot Monarda fistulosa
Dotted Mint M. punctata
Violet Wood Sorrel Oxalis violacea
Prairie Panic Grass Panicum leibergii
Scribner Panic Grass P. oligosanthes
Switch grass P. virgatum
Wild Quinine Parthenium integrifolium
Wood Betony Pedicularis canadensis
Smooth Penstemon Penstemon digitalis
False Dragonhead Physostegia virginiana
Seneca Snakeroot Polygala senega
Prairie Cinquefoil Potentilla arguta
Rattlesnake Root Prenanthes racemosa
Mountain Mint Pycnanthemum virginianum
Prairie Buttercup Ranunculus rhomboideus
Upright Coneflower Ratibida columnifera
Gray headed Coneflower R. pinnata
Prairie Rose Rosa sp.
Black-eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta
Little Bluestem Schizachyrium scoparium
      syn [Andropogon scoparius]
Rosin Plant Silphium integrifolium
Compass Plant S. lacinatum
Cup Plant S. perfoliatum
Prairie Dock S. terebinthinaceum
Common-eyed Grass Sisyrinchium albidum
Blue-eyed Grass S. campestre
Starry False Solomon's Seal Smilacina stellata
Grass-leaved Goldenrod Solidago graminifolia
Missouri Goldenrod S. missouriensis
Rigid Goldenrod S. rigida
Showy Goldenrod S. speciosa
Indian grass Sorghastrum nutans
Prairie Cord grass Spartina pectinata
Prairie Dropseed Sporobolus heterolepis
Porcupine Grass Stipa spartea
Goats rue Tephrosia virginiana
Tall Meadow Rue Thalictrum dasycarpum
Meadow Parsnip Thaspium trifoliatum
Prairie Spiderwort Tradescantia bracteata
Ohio Spiderwort T. ohiensis
Hoary Vervain Verbena stricta
Culver's Root Veronicastrum virginicum
American Vetch Vicia americana
Bird's Foot Violet Viola pedata
Prairie Violet V. pedatifida
Heart leaved Golden Alexander Zizia aptera
Golden Alexander Z. aurea

 

Characteristics of prairie plants

Key for table

Competitiveness: 1= aggressive, can compete with weedy and exotic species, easiest to establish; 2 = intermediate, not as competitive with weedy and exotic plants, slower to establish; 3 = competition sensitive, will not compete and declines or dies with weedy species and exotics.

Old fields, disturbed sites: Native prairie plants that can be found growing on extensively disturbed sites. These species can be tough enough to survive grazing, mowing, plowing, spraying, or some other land management practices.

Plants restricted to virgin prairies: Prairie plants found growing on virgin (not plowed or disturbed) prairie remnants. Most of these plants will not tolerate any kind of disturbance such as plowing, heavy grazing, or mowing.

Plants established by seeds or plants: Some prairie plants can be established by seeds (S) or (P) or both (S/P). Recommendations are based on the difficulty of germination, survival rate, growth rate, and what is currently available through nurseries. Native plants should be nursery-propagated and purchased through licensed nurseries to support the conservation of native species.

Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Agastache foeniculum
Fragrant Hyssop
1 Yes No S/P Purple 1-3' Mesic July-Aug. Attractive dense, purple spiked flowers, aromatic flowers and leaves.
Agoseris glauca
Prairie Dandelion
3 No Yes P Yellow 6-12" Dry June Dandelion-like flowers. Rare in some areas.
Agropyron smithii
Western Wheat Grass
2 No No S/P - 16-24" Dry July Most of growth occurs in spring and fall.
Allium canadense
Wild Garlic
3 No Yes S/P Pinkish 6-12" Mesic-dry May-June Can't stand heavy grass competition. Needs small companions.
Allium cernuum
Nodding Onion
2 No Yes S/P Pinkish 12-16" Mesic-dry July-Aug. Can't stand heavy grass competition. Needs small companions.
Allium stellatum
Prairie Onion
3 No Yes S/P Pinkish 12-16" Mesic-dry July-Aug. Can't stand heavy grass competition. Needs small companions.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Amorpha canescens
Lead Plant
2 No Yes S/P Purple 1-3' Dry-mesic June-July A very showy woody shrub, grows slowy. A native legume.
Andropogon gerardi
Big Bluestem
1 Yes No S/P - 2-6' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. A warm season grass, forms a solid sod, very aggressive on moist sites.
Anemone canadensis
Canada Mayflower
1 No No P White 12-18" Mesic-wet May-July Found growing in colonies.
Anemone caroliniana
Caroliana Anemone
3 No Yes P White to Violet 8-15" Dry Apr.-May Showy, needs small companions, sensitive to early spring fires.
Anemone cylindrica
Thimble Flower
2 No No S/P White 12-16" Dry-mesic June-July Seedheads are interesting, needs small companions.
Antennaria neglecta
Pussy toes
1 Yes No P White 4-12" Dry-mesic May-June Forms solid patches.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Apocynum androsaemifolium
Spreading Dog bane
3 Yes No P Pink 1-3' Mesic June-July Small, aromatic flowers. Has milky juice like milkweed
Apocynum cannabinum
Indian Hemp
3 No No P Green-white 1-3' Mesic-dry June-Aug. Small flowers. Has milky juice like milkweed
Aquilegia canadensis
Wild Columbine
2 Yes No S/P Red-yellow 1-2' Mesic June-July Self seeds readily. A species found in woods or prairies, very attractive.
Arabis lyrata
Lyre-leaved Rockcress
3 No No P White 6-12" Dry April-May Low growing.
Artemisia caudata
Beach Wormwood
2 No No S/P Green-white 1-2' Dry July-Sept. Self seeds readily.
Artemisia ludoviciana
Prairie Sage
3 Yes No S/P Green/white 1-3' Dry-Mesic July-Aug. Attractive foliage all year.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Asclepias amphexicaulis
Blunt-leaved Milkweed
2 No Yes S/P Green/purple 1-2' Dry June-July Self seeds readily, rare in some areas.
Asclepias hirtella
Green Milkweed
3 No Yes S/P Green/white 1-2' Dry June-Aug. Tall, subtle flowers.
Asclepias incarnata
Swamp Milkweed
1 Yes No S/P Pink 2-4' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Aggressive, needs competition. Good for attracting monarch butterflies.
Asclepias ovalifolia
Oval-leaved Milkweed
3 No Yes S/P White 10-24" Dry June-July Subtle flowers.
Asclepias sullivantii
Sullivant's Milkweed
3 No Yes P Purple/pink 2-4' Mesic July Unusual waxy leaves.
Asclepias syriaca
Common Milkweed
1 Yes No S/P Pink 2-4' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Nodding flower heads.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Asclepias tuberosa
Butterfly Flower
3 No No S/P Orange 1-2' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Highly desirable, very showy! Attracts monarch butterflies
Asclepias verticillata
Whorled Milkweed
1 Yes No S/P White 12-24" Dry-mesic July-Aug. May become aggressive under moist conditions.
Asclepias viridiflora
Short-green Milkweed
3 No Yes P Green/white 1-2' Dry-mesic June-July Subtle flowers.
Aster ericoides
Heath Aster
1 Yes No S/P White 1-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Sept. Can become aggressive and weedy, needs competition.
Aster laevis
Smooth Aster
2 No No S/P Blue 1-3' Dry-mesic July-Sept. Moderately showy.
Aster novae-angliae
New England Aster
1 Yes No S/P Purple 1-6' Wet-mesic Aug.-Oct. Tall, very showy, can become aggressive.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Aster oblongifolius Aromatice Aster 3 No No P Purple 1-2' Dry Sept.-Oct. Moderately showy.
Aster oolentangiensis
syn [Aster azureus]
Sky Blue Aster
2 Yes No S/P Blue 1-4' Mesic-dry Sept.-Oct. Needs competition, self seeds readily. An attractive fall flower display.
Aster prenanthoides
Crooked-stemmed Aster
3 No No S/P Pink/ white 2-3' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Great for wet areas.
Aster puniceus
Purple-stemmed Aster
1 No No S/P White 2-5' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Aggressive, great for wet areas.
Aster sericeus
Silky Aster
2 No No S/P Purple 1-2' Dry Aug.-Sept. Attractive flowers and foliage.
Aster simplex
Panicled Aster
1 No No S/P White 2-4' Wet Aug.-Oct. Aggressive, great for wet areas.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Aster umbellatus
Flat-topped Aster
1 No No S/P White 2-5' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Aggressive, great for wet areas.
Astragalus canadensis
Canadian Milk Vetch
1 No No S/P White 1-3' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Aggressive, spreads fast.
Astragalus crassicarpus
Ground Plum.
3 No Yes P White 6-12" Dry May-June A delicate plant, fruit is interesting, needs small companions
Baptisia alba
White Wild Indigo
2 No Yes P White 2-4' Mesic-dry June-July A native legume, very attractive foliage and flowers.
Baptisia australis
syn [Baptisia leucantha]
Wild Blue Indigo
1 No Yes S/P Blue 2-5' Mesic June-July A native legume, very attractive foliage and flowers.
Baptisia bracteata
syn [Baptisia leucophaea]
Praire Wild Indigo
2 No Yes S/P Yellow 1-2' Mesic-dry   A native legume, needs small companions for support.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Blephilia ciliata
Downy Wood Mint
3 No No P Purple 12-24" Mesic-dry June-July Short, compact growth.
Bouteloua curtipendula
Sideoats Grama
2 No No S/P - 1-3' Dry July-Sept. Moderately aggressive, a bunch grass that self seeds readily, no fall color.
Bouteloua gracilis
Blue Grama
2 No No S/P - 12-18" Dry July-Sept. A bunch grass with no fall color, seed heads are interesting.
Bouteloua hirsuta
Hairy Grama
2 No No S/P - 12-18" Dry July-Sept. A bunch grass with no fall color, seed heads are interesting.
Bromus kalmii
Kalm's Brome
2 No Yes S/P - 1-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Sept. Prefers calcareous soils, no fall color.
Buchloe dactyloides
Buffalo Grass
2 Yes No P - 6-12" Dry July A short grass that grows thick like sod.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Calamagrostis canadensis
Blue joint Grass
1 No No P - 2-5' Wet July-Aug. Forms solid clumps.
Calamovilfa longifolia
Sand Reed Grass
1 No Yes P - 4-5' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Attractive fall color.
Callirhoe triangulata
Poppy Mallow
2 No Yes P Red/ purple 1-2' Dry-mesic June-Aug. Rare in some areas.
Caltha palustris
Marsh Marigold
3 No No P Yellow 12-24" Wet May Needs plenty of moisture.
Campanula rotundifolia
Harebell
3 No No P Blue 6-12" Dry-mesic July-Aug. Self seeds readily, needs good drainage.
Carex bicknellii
Bicknell's Sedge
1 No No P - 12" Mesic-wet May-July Grows in clumps.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Carex meadii
Mead's Sedge
1 No No P - 12-16" Mesic-wet May-June Grows in calcareous soils.
Carex pensylvanica
Pennsylvania Sedge
1 No No P - 6-12" Mesic-dry May-June Can tolerate semi-shady areas.
Cassia hebecarpa
Wild Senna
3 No Yes P Yellow 3-6' Mesic July-Aug. A native legume.
Castilleja coccinea
Indian Paint Brush
3 No Yes S Red 1-2' Mesic June-Aug. Annual or biennial, semi-parasitic on other plant roots.
Castilleja sessiliflora
Yellow Paint brush
3 No Yes S Yellow 1-2' Dry July Annual or biennial, semi-parasitic on other plant roots.
Ceanothus americanus
New Jersey Tea
2 Yes No P White 1-3' Dry-mesic June-July Attractive woody shrub.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Chamaecrista fasciculata
syn [Cassia fasciculata]
Partridge Pea
3 No No S/P Yellow 6-24" Dry July-Aug. A native legume, annual.
Chelone glabra
White Turtle head
3 No No P White 2-3' Wet-mesic Aug. Flower heads resembles "turtles".
Cicuta maculata
Water Hemlock
3 Yes No P White 3-5' Wet-mesic June-Aug. Poisonous.
Cirsium discolor
Pasture Thistle
3 Yes No P Purple 2-5' Mesic Aug.-Sept. Large, attractive flowers.
Cirsium hillii
Hill's Thistle
3 Yes No P Purple 1-2' Mesic-dry June Biennial. Large attractive flowers.
Comandra palmata
False Toad flax
3 Yes No P White 6-12" Wet-mesic June-July Flowers are inconspicuous, semi-parasitic on other plant roots.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Coreopsis palmata
Coreopsis
2 Yes No P Yellow 1-3' Mesic June-Aug. Showy, attractive flowers, self seeds readily.
Cypripedium candidum
Small White Lady's Slipper
3 No Yes NA White 10-16" Wet-mesic May-June Sensitive to competition, low growing. Very difficult to establish
Dalea candidum
syn [Petalostemum candidum]
White Praire Clover
2 No Yes S/P White 1-3' Dry-mesic July-Aug. A native legume, attractive foliage and flowers.
Dalea purpureum
syn [Petalsotemum purpureum]
Purple Praire Clover
2 No Yes S/P Purple 1-3' Dry July-Aug. A native legume, attractive foliage and flowers.
Dalea villosum
syn [Petalostemum villosum]
Silky Praire Clover
2 No Yes S/P Purple 1-3' Dry July-Aug. A native legume, attractive foliage and flowers.
Delphinium virescens
Praire Larkspur
3 No Yes S/P White 1-3' Dry-mesic June-July Sensitive to hot weather, may die-back during droughts, re-growth in cool weather.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Desmodium canadense
Showy Tick-trefoil
1 Yes No S/P Purple 1-4' Wet-mesic July-Aug. A native legume, aggressive, flowers are showy.
Desmodium illinoense
Illinois Tick-trefoil
1 Yes No S/P White-pink 1-2' Mesic July-Aug. A native legume, sometimes aggressive, needs competition.
Dodecatheon meadia
Midland Shooting star
2 No Yes P White to pink 12" Wet-dry May-June Very showy, sensitive to spring fires. Can tolerate some shade.
Echinacea angustifolia
Pale Purple Coneflower
1 No Yes S/P Purple 2-3' Mesic-dry June-July Aggressive, needs competition.
Echinacea purpurea
Purple Coneflower
1 Yes No P Purple 2-4' Mesic-dry June-Sept. A native legume, attractive foliage and flowers.
Elymus canadensis
Canada Wildrye
1 Yes No P - 2-4' Mesic July-Aug. More aggressive on warmer, moist sites, may gradually disappear.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Equisetum arvense
Common Horsetail
1 Yes No S/P - 2-3' Wet-mesic May Can become aggressive.
Epilobium angustifolium
Fire Weed
1 Yes No S/P Pink 2-5' Mesic July-Aug. Tall, bushy, very attractive flowers.
Eragrostis spectabilis
Purple Love Grass
1 Yes No S/P - 1-2' Dry July-Sept. Delicate, attractive seedheads.
Eryngium yuccifolium
Rattlesnake Master
1 No No S/P White 2-4' Mesic-dry July-Aug. Aggressive on moist sites, attractive seedheads.
Eupatorium maculatum
Joe-Pye Weed
1 No No S/P Pink 3-5' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Usually grows in large colonies.
Eupatorium perfoliatum
Boneset
2 No No S/P White 3-5' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Usually grows in large colonies.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Euphorbia corollata
Flowering Spurge
2 Yes No S/P White 1-3' Dry-mesic June-Aug. Moderately showy flowers, self seeds readily.
Filipendula rubra
Queen of the Prairie
2 No Yes S/P Pink 3-6' Wet-mesic June-Aug. Uncommon, a large and showy plant.
Fragaria virginiana
Wild Strawberry
1 Yes No P White 6-12" Wet-mesic May-June Fruit attractive to birds. Leaves turn red in fall.
Galium boreale
Northern Bedstraw
2 Yes No S/P White 1-2' Wet-mesic June-Aug. Self seeds readily, a good ground cover.
Gentiana alba
syn [Gentiana flavida]
Yellow Gentian
3 No Yes P White-yellow 1-2' Wet-mesic Sept.-Oct. Petals stay closed, sensitive to heavy grass competition.
Gentiana andrewsii
Bottle Gentian
3 No No P Blue 1-2' Wet-mesic Sept.-Oct. Petals stay closed, sensitive to heavy grass competition.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Gentiana puberula
Downy Gentian
3 No Yes P Blue 1-2' Dry-mesic Sept.-Oct. Low growing habit, petals open, rare in most areas.
Gentianella quinquefolia
syn [Gentiana quinquefolia]
Stiff Gentian
3 No Yes S/P Blue 1-2' Wet-mesic Sept.-Oct. Petals stay closed, sensitive to heavy grass competition.
Gentianopsis crinata
syn [Gentiana crinata]
Fringed Gentian
3 No Yes S/P Blue 1-2' Wet-mesic Sept.-Oct. Petals open, rare in most areas.
Geum triflorum
Prairie Smoke
3 No No P Red 6-12" Dry-mesic April-May Sensitive to spring fires and heavy grass competition, attractive in mass.
Glycyrrhiza lepidota
Wild Licorice
3 No Yes P Cream 2-3' Mesic-dry June-July A native legume.
Platanthera praeclara
syn [Habenaria leucopaea]
White Fringed Orchid
3 No Yes NA White 1-3' Wet-mesic June-July Very difficult to establish.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Platanthera psycodes
syn [Habenaria psycodes]
Purple Fringed Orchid
3 No Yes NA Purple 1-3' Wet-mesic June-July Very difficult to establish.
Hedeoma hispida
Mock Pennyroyal
3 No No P Blue 2-12" Dry June-Aug. Annual, low growing.
Hedyotis longifolia
syn [Houstonia longifolia]
Longleaf Bluet
3 No No P Blue 4-12" Dry June-Oct. Needs small companions, rare in some areas.
Helenium autumnale
Sneezeweed
2 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-5' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Numerous flowers, usually found in large colonies.
Helianthus grosseserratus
Sawtooth Sunflower
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 4-7' Wet-mesic Aug.-Oct. Can become weedy. Very easy to establish.
Helianthus laetiflorus
Showy Sunflower
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-6' Mesic Aug.-Oct. Establishes quickly, needs competition. Tall attractive flowers.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Helianthus maximiliani
Maximilian Sunflower
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-5' Mesic July-Oct. Aggressive.
Helianthus mollis
Downy Sunflower
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Sept. Very easy to establish.
Helianthus occidentalis
Western Sunflower
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-6' Mesic-dry Aug.-Oct. Large, showy flowers.
Heliopsis helianthoides
Oxeye
1 No No S/P Yellow 2-6' Mesic July-Sept. Showy flowers, grows in colonies.
Heterothera villosa
syn [Chrysopsis villosa]
Golden Aster
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 1-2' Dry-mesic July-Oct. Self seeds easily, can become aggressive on moist sites.
Heuchera richardsonii
Alumroot
3 No Yes P Greenish 1-2' Dry-mesic May-June Small, delicate flowers, leaves turn red in fall. Needs small companions.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Hieracium canadense
Canada Hawkweed
2 No No S/P Yellow 2-4' Mesic July-Sept. Moderately attractive flowers, self seeds readily.
Hieracium longipilum
Hairy Hawkweed
2 No No S/P Yellow 2-4' Dry July-Aug. Prefers sandy areas.
Hierchloe odorata
Sweet Grass
2 No No P - 1-2' Wet-mesic May-June Aromatic leaves.
Hudsonia tomentosa
False Heather
3 No No P Yellow 4-12" Dry May-June Prostrate growth habit.
Hypoxis hirsuta
Yellow Stargrass
3 No Yes P Yellow 4-12" Wet-mesic May-July Delicate flowers, needs small companions.
Iris versicolor
Blue flag Iris
2 No No P Blue 2-3' Wet-mesic June-July Grows in large colonies.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Iris virginica var. shrevei
Wild Blue flag Iris
2 No No P Blue 1-2' Wet-mesic May-July Grows in large colonies.
Juncus tenuis
Path Rush
2 No No S/P - 6-12" Wet-dry June Can be found on compacted soil.
Koeleria macrantha
syn [Koeleria cristata]
Junegrass
3 No No S/P - 1-2' Dry May-July Very attractive flowers and seedheads, can’t tolerate heavy grass competition.
Kuhnia eupatorioides
False Boneset
1 No No S/P Cream 2-4' Dry Aug.-Sept. Aggressive, can become aggressive on moist sites.
Lathyrus venosus
Showy Vetchling
1 Yes No S/P Purple 2-4' Wet-mesic June-July Attractive, showy flowers.
Lespedeza capitata
Roundheaded Bush clover
2 Yes No S/P Cream 2-5' Dry-mesic Aug.-Sept. A native legume, seedheads are very attractive.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Liatris aspera
Rough Blazing star
2 No Yes S/P Purple 1-4' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. Great for attracting monarch butterflies.
Liatris cylindrica
Cylindric Blazing star
2 No Yes P Purple 6-12" Dry Aug.-Sept. Needs small companions for support.
Liatris ligulistylis
Meadow Blazing star
2 No Yes S/P Purple 2-4' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. Great for attracting monarch butterflies.
Liatris punctata
Dotted Blazing star
2 No Yes P Purple 1-2' Dry Sept.-Oct. Needs small companions for support.
Liatris pycnostachya
Prairie Blazing star
2 No Yes S/P Purple 2-4' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Showy, spectacular summer display of purple flowers.
Liatris spicata
Marsh Blazing star
2 No Yes P Purple 2-4' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Attractive flowers, needs companions for support.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Lilium michiganense
Michigan Lily
3 No Yes P Orange 2-6' Wet-mesic June-July Rare in most areas, large attractive flowers.
Lilium philadelphicum
Wood Lily
3 No Yes P Orange 1-3' Mesic-wet June-Aug. Rare in most areas, large attractive flowers.
Lithospermum canescens
Hoary Puccoon
3 No Yes NA Yellow 1-2' Dry-mesic May-June Attractive flowers and foliage, rare in some areas.
Lithospermum caroliana
Caroliana Puccoon
3 No Yes NA Yellow/orange 1-2' Dry-mesic May-June Attractive flowers and foliage, rare in some areas.
Lobelia cardinalis
Cardinal Flower
3 No No S/P Red 2-5' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Tall growth habit, brilliant red flowers, attracts hummingbirds. Short-lived.
Lobelia siphilitica
Great Blue Lobelia
3 No No S/P Blue 1-3' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Can tolerate partial shade.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Lobelia spicata
Pale Spiked Lobelia
2 No No S/P Blue 1-2' Mesic-dry June-Sept. Blooms for a long time.
Lupinus perennis
Wild Lupine
2 No Yes S/P Blue 1-2' Dry-mesic May-June A native legume, very attractive flowers.
Lysimachia quadriflora
Prairie Loose strife
2 No No P Yellow 1-2' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Grows in large colonies.
Monarda fistulosa
Wild Bergamot
3 Yes No S/P Violet 2-3' Wet-dry July-Aug. Needs competition, very attractive flowers.
Monarda punctata
Dotted Mint
3 Yes No S/P Violet-white 1-3' Dry-mesic July-Sept. The flower bracts are very attractive, not the petals. Beautiful in masses.
Muhlunbergia racemosa
Green Muhly Grass
2 No No P - 1-2' Dry June-July A great companion for other low growing species.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Oenothera pilosella
Prairie Sundrops
3 No No P Yellow 2-3' Wet-dry July-Aug. Flowers bloom for a short time.
Oenothera rhomiboides
Primrose
3 No No P Yellow 2-3' Wet-dry July-Aug. Flowers bloom for a short time.
Opuntia fragilis
Brittle Prickly Pear
3 No Yes P Yellow 3-6" Dry May-June Unusual, low growing, rare in some areas.
Opuntia humifusa
Prickly Pear
3 No Yes P Yellow 3-6" Dry June-July Unusual, low growing, rare in some areas.
Oxalis violacea
Violet Wood Sorrel
3 No No NA Violet 12" Dry-mesic May-June Very attractive flowers, a good companion for short species.
Oxypolis rigidior
Cowbane
3 Yes No S/P White 2-5' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Poisonous.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Panicum leibergii
Prairie Panic Grass
1 No Yes NA - 1-2' Mesic July Grows in clumps.
Panicum oligosanthes
Scribner Panic Grass
1 No No NA - 1-2' Dry-mesic June-July Grows in clumps.
Panicum perlongum
Long stalked Panic Grass
1 No No NA - 10-24" Dry June-July Grows in clumps.
Panicum virgatum
Switch Grass
1 Yes No S/P - 3-5' Dry-mesic July-Sept. Grows in clumps, can become aggressive in moist areas.
Parthenium integrifolium
Wild Quinine
3 No No P White 2-3' Dry-mesic June-Aug. Attractive foliage.
Pedicularis canadensis
Wood Betony
3 No No P Yellow 6-12" Mesic-dry May-June Flowers are very attractive, parasitic on other plant roots.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Pedicularis lanceolata
Marsh Betony
3 No No P Yellow 1-2' Wet July-Aug. Flowers are very attractive, parasitic on other plant roots.
Penstemon albidus
White Penstemon
3 No Yes P White 12-16" Dry-mesic May Self seeds readily.
Penstemon digitalis
Smooth Penstemon
3 No Yes P White 2-3' Mesic June-July Numerous, white flowers, leaves turn red in fall.
Penstemon gracilis
Slender Penstemon
3 No Yes P Pink 6-12" Dry-mesic May-June Very attractive flowers, self seeds readily.
Penstemon grandiflorus
Showy Penstemon
3 No No S/P Pink 2-3' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Very attractive flowers, self seeds readily.
Penstemon pallidus
Pale Penstemon
3 No Yes P Pink 1-3' Dry May-June Very attractive flowers, self seeds readily.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Phlox pilosa
Prairie Phlox
2 No Yes P Pink 1-3' Wet-mesic May-July A vigorous grower.
Physostegia virginiana
False Dragonhead
2 No No S/P Pink 2-3' Wet-Mesic Aug.-Sept. Tall, spike-like flowers.
Polygala senega
Seneca Snakeroot
3 No Yes P White 12-20" Dry-mesic May-June Unusual, attractive flowers and growth habit.
Potentilla arguta
Prairie Cinquefoil
3 No No S/P Yellow 2-3' Mesic-dry June-July Unusual, delicate foliage.
Prenanthes racemosa
Rattlesnake Root
3 No No S/P Violet 2-4' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. Seedheads resemble Liatris.
Psoralea esculenta
Prairie Turnip
3 No Yes S/P Blue 12-24" Dry June-July A native legume, delicate and attractive flowers, rare in some areas.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Psoralea tenuiflora
Scurf Pea
3 No Yes S/P Blue 12-24" Dry June-July A native legume, delicate and attractive flowers, rare in some areas.
Pulsatilla patens
syn [Anemone patens]
Pasque Flower
3 No Yes P White-violet 4-12" Dry-mesic May-June Needs small companions, can’t tolerate heavy grass competition. Feather-like seed heads.
Pycnanthemum virginianum
Mountain Mint
1 Yes No P White 2-3' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Aromatic foliage and flowers.
Ranunculus pensylvanicus
Bristly Buttercup
1 Yes No P Yellow 1-2' Wet July-Aug. Not competition sensitive.
Ranunculus rhomboideus
Prairie Buttercup
1 No No P Yellow 6-12" Dry-mesic April-May Not competition sensitive.
Ratibida columnifera
Upright Coneflower
2 No No S/P Yellow 1-4' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Needs competition, self seeds readily.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Ratibida pinnata
Gray headed Coneflower
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-6' Mesic-wet July-Aug. Aggressive, tall, and showy. Needs competition, self seeds readily.
Rosa sp.
Praire Rose
1 Yes No P Pink 1-4' Dry-mesic June-July Very large, showy flowers, rose hips are attractive in fall.
Rudbeckia hirta
Black-eyed Susan
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 1-2' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Short lived perennial that self seeds readily.
Rudbeckia subtomentosa
Sweet Coneflower
1 No Yes P Yellow 3-4' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Tall, branched with small attractive flowers.
Ruellia humilis
Wild Petunia
2 No No P Violet 6-12" Dry July-Aug. Blooms for a short time.
Saxifraga pensylvanica
Swamp Saxifrage
3 No Yes P Green 2-3' Wet-mesic May-June Tall, plants with long stalks, small flowers.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Scutellaria parvula
Small Skullcap
3 No Yes NA Blue 6-12" Dry-mesic June-July Small flowers.
Schizachyrium scoparium
syn [Andropogon scoparius]
Little Bluestem
2 Yes No S/P - 1-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Sept. A short prairie grass that grows in clumps, attractive reddish fall color.
Scirpus validus
Great Bulrush
1 Yes No S/P - 2-6' Wet-mesic May-June Often grows in large colonies.
Silphium integrifolium
Rosin Plant
1 No No S/P Yellow 2-5' Dry-mesic July-Aug. Tall, coarse, aggressive.
Silphium lacinatum
Compass Plant
1 No No S/P Yellow 3-8' Mesic-dry June-Aug. Very tall, attractive flowers, leaves orient with the sun.
Silphium perfoliatum
Cup Plant
1 No No S/P Yellow 2-6' Mesic July-Sept. Interesting shaped leaves trap water.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Silphium terebinthinaceum
Prairie Dock
1 No No S/P Yellow 4-8' Mesic-wet July-Sept. The tallest prairie flower, basal leaves reach 2' in diameter.
Sisyrinchium albidum
Common Blue-eyed Grass
3 No Yes P White 6-12" Dry-mesic May-June Small, attractive, delicate flowers, grows in small colonies.
Sisyrinchium campestre
Blue-eyed Grass
3 No Yes P Blue 6-12" Dry-mesic May-June Small, attractive, delicate flowers, grows in small colonies.
Smilacina stellata
Starry False Solomon's Seal
1 No Yes P White 1-2' Mesic-wet July-Aug. Purplish berries very attractive, grows very dense to form a ground cover.
Solidago graminifolia
Grass-leaved Goldenrod
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 1-3' Mesic Aug.-Sept. Attractive flowers, but aggressive.
Solidago missouriensis
Missouri Goldenrod
1 No Yes S/P Yellow 1-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Oct. Attractive flowers, but aggressive.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Solidago nemoralis
Gray Goldenrod
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 1-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Oct. Attractive, arching flower heads.
Solidago ptarmicoides
syn [Aster ptarmicoides]
White Upland Aster
3 No No S/P White 1-2' Dry Aug.-Sept. Rare in some areas.
Solidago riddellii
Riddell's Goldenrod
1 No Yes S/P Yellow 1-3' Wet-mesic Sept.-Oct. Attractive flowers, but aggressive, needs competition. Turns red in fall.
Solidago rigida
Rigid Goldenrod
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-4' Dry-mesic Sept.-Oct. Attractive flowers, but aggressive.
Solidago speciosa
Showy Goldenrod
1 Yes No S/P Yellow 2-3' Dry-mesic Aug.-Oct. Most attractive of all the goldenrods, aggressive, turns red in fall.
Sorghastrum nutans
Indian grass
1 Yes No S/P - 2-6' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. Aggressive, needs competition, attractive bronze seedheads in fall.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Spartina pectinata
Prairie Cord Grass
1 Yes No P - 3-6' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Usually found growing in large colonies in moist to wet areas.
Spiranthes cernua
Nodding Lady Tresses
3 No Yes NA White 1-2' Wet-dry Aug.-Sept. A native orchid that is hard to find.
Spirea alba
Meadow Sweet
2 No No P White 3-6' Wet-mesic July-Aug. A woody shrub with large, fragrant flowers, leaves turning orange in fall.
Spirea tomentosa
Steeple Bush
2 No No P Pink 3-6' Wet-mesic July-Aug. A woody shrub with large, fragrant flowers, leaves turning red in fall.
Sporobolus asper
Rough Dropseed
1 Yes No S/P - 2-4' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. Attractive seedheads, can become aggressive under moist conditions.
Sporobolus heterolepis
Prairie Dropseed
2 Yes No S/P - 2-3' Mesic-dry Aug.-Sept. Attractive, delicate seedheads.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Stipa spartea
Porcupine Grass
2 No Yes S/P - 2-3' Dry-mesic May-June A short prairie bunch grass, seedheads are long, needle sharp.
Tephrosia virginiana
Goats rue
3 No No S/P Pink 1-2' Dry-mesic June-July Grows in clumps, very attractive flowers.
Thalictrum dasycarpum
Tall Meadow Rue
2 No Yes S/P Purple 3-4' Wet-mesic June-July Tall, attractive foliage.
Thaspium trifoliatum
Meadow Parsnip
1 No No S/P Yellow 2-3' Mesic May-June Resembles Golden Alexander.
Tradescantia bracteata
Prairie Spiderwort
1 Yes No S/P Blue 1-2' Mesic-wet June-Aug. Low growing, flowers for a long time.
Tradescantia ohiensis
Ohio Spiderwort
2 Yes No S/P Blue 1-2' Dry-mesic June-Aug. Low growing, flowers for a long time.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Verbena hastata
Blue Vervain
1 Yes No S/P Blue 3-4' Wet-mesic Aug.-Sept. Numerous flowers, leaves turn reddish-purple.
Verbena stricta
Hoary Vervain
1 Yes No S/P Blue 2-3' Mesic-dry June-Sept. Attractive spike flowers, can become weedy under moist conditions.
Vernonia fasciculata
Ironweed
1 No No S/P Red-purple 2-5' Wet-mesic July-Aug. Aggressive, tall and coarse.
Veronicastrum virginicum
Culver's Root
3 No No S/P White 3-6' Mesic-wet July-Aug. Attractive spike flowers.
Vicia americana
American Vetch
1 No No S/P Blue 2-3' Dry-mesic May-Aug. Blooms a long time.
Viola nephrophylla
Blue Marsh Violet
3 No No P Blue 3-8" Wet-mesic May-June Low growing, numerous flowers.
Comp. Old fields Virgin prairies Establish. Color Height Habitat Period of bloom Comments
Viola pedata
Bird's Foot Violet
3 No No P Blue 3-8" Dry-mesic May-June Low growing, numerous flowers.
Viola pedatifida
Prairie Violet
3 No No P Blue 3-8" Dry-mesic May-June Low growing, numerous flowers.
Viola sagittata
Arrow-leaved Violet
3 No No P Purple 3-8" Dry-mesic May-June Low growing, numerous flowers.
Zizia aptera
Heart leaved Golden Alexander
1 No No S/P Yellow 1-3' Wet-mesic May-June Large, showy flowers.
Zizia aurea
Golden Alexander
1 No No S/P Yellow 1-3' Wet-mesic May-June Large, showy flowers.

Other prairie plant communities

Several other prairie plant communities are found in the Midwest, constituting a small fraction of the total vegetation that exists today. They contain the same herbaceous plant species found in the wet, mesic, and dry prairie communities, but in different proportions.

Oak Savanna

Oak savannas were a common ecotype between the eastern deciduous forest and the tallgrass prairie. These were park-like groves of oak, often bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa, and mesic prairie grasslands. Today most savannas have been destroyed, although some groves of trees still exist in pastures or in suburban housing developments. Fire was a significant factor in influencing the position and extent of this community. Some public land surveys of Minnesota indicate that rather than a park-like grove, this community may have been more brushland with small groves of trees intermixed with open prairie.

Fens

Fen is a geologic term used to describe low, swampy, boggy areas, but the word also describes the soil/plant relationship. Fens are wet prairie communities found on hillsides, fed by internal springs, associated with either extinct or existing glacial lakes of a dolomitic limestone source. Water and soil conditions tend to vary slightly from site to site, but they generally tend to be high in magnesium sulfates, magnesium and calcium bicarbonates. Sedges and grasses are the dominant plants found in fens.

Aspen Parkland

The aspen parkland plant communities are found in the far north of the Midwest, a transition area between the coniferous forest to the northeast and the prairie communities of the west. Ancient beach ridges hold large concentrations of peat, gravel, and sand. These poorly drained areas shelter and wet and mesic prairie communities, supporting populations of aspen and other fast-growing trees between prairie fires. The aspen parkland once covered vast acreages within the poorly drained flatlands left by Glacial Lake Agassiz. Remnants existing today are a mosaic of wet prairie, sedge meadow, shrub thicket, and aspen groves.

References

Audubon Society. 1979. Field Guide to North American Wildflowers/Eastern Region. Alfred A. Knopf. New York.

Barr, Claude. 1983. Jewels of the Plains: Wildflowers of the Great Plains, Grasslands and Hills. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN.

Brown, L. 1985. Grasslands. Audubon Society Nature Guide. Alfred A. Knopf. New York, NY.

Courtney, Booth, and James H. Zimmerman. 1992. Wildflowers and Weeds. Simon and Schuster. New York, NY.

Congdon, Eleanor. 1993. Bibliography-Native Grasses and Wildflower Research Publications. Legislative Commission of Minnesota's Natural Resources. St. Paul, MN.

Curtis, John T. 1959. The Vegetation of Wisconsin. University of Wisconsin. Madison, WI.

Great Plains Flora Association. 1977. Atlas of the Flora of the Great Plains. Iowa State Press. Ames, IA.

Great Plains Flora Association. 1986. Flora of the Flora of the Great Plains. University of Kansas Press. Lawrence, KS.

Hitchcock, A.S. 1971. Manual of Grasses of the United States. Dover Publishing. New York, NY.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 1988. Natural Vegetation of Minnesota at the time of public land survey 1847-1907. MN DNR Biological Report No. 1. St. Paul, MN.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 1993. Minnesota's Native Vegetation, A Key to Natural Communities. MN DNR Biological Report No. 20. St. Paul, MN.

Morely, Thomas. 1974. Spring Flora of Minnesota. Botany Department, University of Minnesota Press. St. Paul, MN.

Moyle, J.B., and E.W. Moyle. 1977. Northland Wildflowers-A Guide for the Minnesota Region. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN.

Ownbey, Gerald, and Thomas Morley. 1991. Vascular Plants of Minnesota: A Checklist and Atlas. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN.

Peterson, Roger T., and Margaret McKenny. 1968. A Field Guide to Wildflowers, Northeastern/North central North America. Houghton Mifflin Co. Boston, MA.

Risser, P.G., E.C. Birney, and H.D. Blocker. 1981. The True Prairie Ecosystem. Hutchinson Ross Publishing. Stroudsburg, PA.

Runkel, Sylvan T., and Dean M. Roosa. 1989. Wildflowers of the Tallgrass Prairie. Iowa State University Press. Ames, IA.

Smith, Welby R. 1993. Orchids of Minnesota. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN.

Stubbendieck, J., S. Hatch, and K. Hirsch. 1986. North American Range Plants. University of Nebraska Press. Lincoln, NE.

Vance, F.R., J.R. Jowsey, and J.S. McLean. 1984. Wildflowers of the Northern Great Plains. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis, MN.

Van der Valk, A. 1989. Northern Prairie Wetlands. Iowa State University Press. Ames, IA.

Weaver, J.E. 1954. North American Prairie. Johnson Publishing. Lincoln, NE.

Wendt, Keith M. 1984. A Guide to Minnesota Prairies, The Natural Heritage Program. Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. St. Paul, MN.

Landscaping and propagation

Art, Henry W. 1991. The Wildflower Gardener's Guide: Midwest, Great Plains, and Canadian Prairies edition. Story Communications, Inc., Pownal, VT.

Diekellmann, John, and R. Schuster. 1982. Natural Landscaping: Designing with Native Plant Communities. McGraw Hill, New York.

Henderson, Carol. 1987. Landscaping for Wildlife. Nongame Wildlife Program, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, St. Paul, MN.

National Wildflower Research Center. 1989. The Wildflower Handbook. Texas Monthly Press, Austin, TX.

Stevenson, V. 1985. The Wild Garden: Making Natural Gardens Using Wild and Native Plants. Penguin, New York.

Sullivan, G. and R. Daley. 1981. Directory to Resources on Wildflower Propagation. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO.

Wilson, Tim. 1992. Landscaping with Wildflowers: An Environmental Approach to Gardening. Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston, MA.

Wilson, Jim. 1992. Landscaping with Wildflowers. Houghton Mifflin Co., New York.

Wilson, William. 1984. Landscaping with Wildflowers and Native Plants. Ortho Books, San Francisco, CA.

Young, J., and C. Young. 1986. Collection, Processing and Germinating Seeds of Wildland Plants. Timber Press, Portland, OR.

Prairie establishment and management

Manitoba Natural Resources. 1990. Prairie Grasslands Guidebook, a management manual. Public Information Unit, Manitoba Natural Resources, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Nichols, Stan, and L. Entine. 1976. Prairie Primer. University of Wisconsin-Extension, Madison, WI.

Pauly, Wayne R. 1988. How to Manage Small Prairie Fires. Dane County Park Commission, Madison, WI.

Rock, H. 1971. Prairie Propagation Handbook. Boerner Botanical Gardens, Hales Corners, WI.

Smith, J. Robert, and Beatrice Smith. 1980. The Prairie Garden: 70 Native Plants You Can Grow in Town or Country. The University of Wisconsin Press, Madison, WI.

Shirley, Shirley. 1994. Restoring the Tallgrass Prairie, an illustrated manual for Iowa and the Upper Midwest. University of Iowa Press, Iowa City, IA.

Native plant and horticultural societies

Iowa

Iowa Natural Areas Inventory
Bureau of Preserves and Ecological Services
Department of Natural Resources
Wallace State Office Building
Des Moines, IA 50319
(515) 281-8524
State Natural Heritage Program Office.

The Nature Conservancy
Iowa Field Office
431 E. Locust, Suite 200
Des Moines, IA 50309
(515) 244-5044

Michigan

Michigan Botanical Club
Matthaie Botanical Gardens
1800 Dixboro Road
Ann Arbor, MI 48105
Publishes The State Newsletter and Michigan Botanist. Has 5 regional chapters, programs on natural history and native plants.

Michigan Natural Features Inventory
Mason Building, 5th Floor
Box 30028
Lansing, MI 48909
(517) 373-1552
State Natural Heritage Program Office.

The Nature Conservancy
Michigan Field Office
2840 East Grand River, Suite 5
East Lansing, MI 48823
(517) 332-1741

Minnesota

Minnesota Natural Heritage Program
Department of Natural Resources
500 Lafayette Road
St. Paul, MN 55155
(612) 296-4284
State Natural Heritage Program Office.

Minnesota State Horticultural Society
1755 Prior Ave. N.
Falcon Heights, MN 55113-5549
(612) 643-3601
Publishes Minnesota Horticulturist magazine. Seminars, library, and educational programs.

Minnesota Native Plant Society
220 Biological Science Center
University of Minnesota
1445 Gortner Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55108
Publishes The Minnesota Plant Press. Annual conference on native plants, field trips, regional fairs and exhibits.

The Nature Conservancy
Minnesota Field Office
1313 5th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55414
(612) 331-0750

Nebraska

The Nature Conservancy
Nebraska Field Office
418 South 10th Street
Omaha, NE 68102
(402) 342-0282

Nebraska Natural Heritage Program
Games and Parks Commission
2200 N. 33rd Street
P.O. Box 30370
Lincoln, NE 68503
(402) 471-5421
State Natural Heritage Program Office.

North Dakota

The Nature Conservancy
Dakotas Field Office
1014 East Central Avenue
Bismarck, ND 58501
(701) 222-8464

South Dakota

South Dakota Natural Heritage
South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks Wildlife Division
445 E. Capitol Avenue
Pierre, SD 57501-3185
(605) 773-4277
State Natural Heitage Program Office.

Wisconsin

The Nature Conservancy
Wisconsin Field Office
333 West Mifflin, Suite 107
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 251-8140

Wisconsin Natural Heritage Program
Endangered Resources/4
Department of Natural Resources
101 S. Webster Street, Box 7921
Madison, WI 53707
(608) 266-0924
State Natural Heritage Program Office.

 

 

About the authors

Roy Robison received his B.S. from the University of Minnesota and is president of Landscape Alternatives, Inc., a nursery that propagates and sells native wildflowers and grasses.

Donald B. White is a professor in the Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota. He teaches courses in turfgrass science and is interested in native prairie establishment.

Mary H. Meyer is an assistant professor in the Department of Horticultural Science, University of Minnesota, and conducts research on native and ornamental grasses.

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